Vail faces $3.5 million in parking upgrades
VAIL – Filled parking structures are a good problem to have, but a problem nonetheless.
When Vail’s parking structures fill up on busy weekends, both winter and summer, people park along the town’s north and south frontage roads. That creates legal problems with the Colorado Department of Transportation, which maintains those roads.
State and town officials have hammered out a plan in which the town can allow frontage road parking, but for no more than 30 days per calendar year – which will likely be split between the summer and winter seasons. As part of that deal, Vail has to pay for improvements in several spots, from wider shoulders at spots on the south side to guardrails on the north side near Safeway.
What that means is that formerly free parking isn’t free any more.
Town officials expect to spend about $700,000 this year on improvements to South Frontage Road, including the addition of a guardrail on the North Frontage Road. And Vail’s entire to-do list from the state adds up to nearly $3.5 million that isn’t in the town’s current revenue streams.
“We need to recapture that money somehow,” council member Greg Moffet said.
And doing that will require either a tax increase, selling parking permits for those Frontage Road spots or writing tickets.
During a Tuesday discussion of the town’s parking strategies, council member Kevin Foley said it’s probably time to end free parking on the frontage roads. While that’s a possibility, other council members said they’d rather cut back on the need for frontage road parking. One way to do that, they said, is through more efficient use of the town’s existing parking structures.
Mayor Andy Daly said an electronic system could allow the town to start “demand” pricing, in which different rates are charged at different times.
But, Moffet said, that strategy can be confusing for guests.
“Let’s remind ourselves what business we’re in,” Moffet said, adding that every policy issue the town tackles should put guest service at the top of the priority list.
Daly agreed that whatever parking plan evolves, it has to be “as guest friendly as possible.”
“None of us like paid parking,” Daly added. “But if we didn’t do it there’d be no guest parking.”
Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or firstname.lastname@example.org.